Thursday, September 27, 2007

Lotro: Orc Killing and Frustration

Now level 38, with many tasks accomplished in the Trollshaws Throg finds that the remaining tasks there are somewhat beyond his level. The Misty Mountains beckon. The bold dwarf made a sortie there to slay some snow beasts but realises that he needs at least a couple of levels of intensive training before he can really make a useful contribution in those treacherous peaks.

With that thought in mind Throg headed back to that orc infested corner of the North Downs called Dol Dinen. Many Orcs and Trolls have gathered there. No doubt they intend to sneak through the mountains to re-enforce the hordes that wreaked such devastation on the once pretty Hamlet of Trestlebridge. Throg and his fellows made those Orcs pay a dear price for the suffering they caused and he has no intention of letting this new bunch take up where there their fellows failed. In truth judging by the massive war machines they have dragged out of Angmar it is likely that their destructive ambition does not stop at Trestle bridge - Perhaps even Bree itself is the next target.

Throg is not intimidated by massive siege engines - the bigger the engine the easier the target he thinks. Thus he set off with a motley crew of adventurers to spoil some orc plans. This impromptu fellowship killed a great many orcs and trolls but lack of co-ordination prevented them from striking a decisive blow. Throg is often inclined to strike first and think later but even he now realises that a more focused strike is needed - perhaps destroying vital components of the orc war machines and then selectively thinning the ranks of officers and orc champions.


Throg still has much work to do in Middle Earth but I have to admit I am getting increasingly frustrated with Lotro's controls. I have complained about them before without really understanding what is wrong. While I still don't have a complete handle on it all I understand it somewhat better since the addition of an optionally visible skill queue in the Shores of Evendim patch.

I have been playing with this queue visible for the last few days. It shows you an eggtimer for the global command cool down and the aforementioned skill queue. Queue is in fact a very generous appellation because it has a depth of exactly one skill. I now realise that all my previous thoughts about queueing up skills for combo's are completely bogus. You cannot stack up more than one skill. In fact if you press a new skill key while there is one in the queue it will be overwritten by the new skill. An attempt to quickly enter a combo of skills is doomed to failure - because in general only the first and last skills will be executed.

This is particularly frustrating for a Champion like Throg. Throg has to use his skills in particular combinations in order to build up the fervour needed to unleash the most devastating blows. Also since Champion skills favour big slow weapons with large damage per hit he generally uses weapons with a very slow speed. His current hammer is a 3.4 second per hit. That is a long time to wait before pressing the next key in the sequence and it gives lots of opportunity to press too many keys in haste.

Another frustration stems from the chaos that is a fellowship battle. With multiple enemies and multiple fellows on screen at the same time it becomes impossible to see what is going on. I know this must be common to all MMORPGS but with Lotro is just seems worse than I remember from other games. There is the issue of floaty names - if you turn on floaty names you can't see a thing. If you turn off floaty names you can see better but it become hard to figure out who to hit next. The fact that Throg is a melee character makes this so much worse. He needs to select the correct opponent, run up to them and make sure he is facing them in order to inflict damage. I know there are clever targeting and auto run options but I have tried them all and still can't get a satisfactory solution. Many enemies are "runners" who run away once they suffer too much damage. Trying to ensure that Throg is still hitting these guys is just awfully frustrating.

I got so frustrated last night I actually considered restarting as a ranged character. Some of my frustration no doubt stems from the disastrous pickup group Throg headed out with - a group that seemed intent on killing everything in sight except the quest objective. However I am not too bothered about that. I have consciously decided to play Lotro at a very casual pace and not to get concerned about leveling and such. I would be happy to spend an hour slaughtering trolls and orcs if the interface allowed me to see what was going on and the controls were responsive enough to let me feel I was actually contributing to the outcome.


The following article from the LOTRO lorebook goes into great detail about skill timers, skill queues and cooldowns. It appears to directly contradict my experience of there only being a single slot skills queue. I quote:
For example, assume skills A, B, and C are queued up
I don't get this - there is only one slot in the visible skill queue. I experimented with and I am almost certain that activating another skill overwrites the first.

I am totally confused but my game experience remains the same. The controls feel terribly unresponsive.

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